Published On: Tue, Mar 3rd, 2020

Johnson trying to keep Brexit EU trade negotiations secret is ‘futile’ according to TUC

The Trade Union Congress’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, has warned Boris Johnson that trying to keep negotiations with the EU on a new EU trade deal secret will prove to be futile.

Ms O’Grady warned Johnson that UK unions will “get to hear” what goes on in post-Brexit trade talks with the EU, even if the prime minister tries to withhold details from the public.

The general secretary also urged the PM to defend workers’ rights and not make EU talks a “virility test”. Johnson has promised the UK would be “the best place in the world to work” and would maintain “exceptionally high standards” but Ms O’Grady said she had “real concerns” over Mr Johnson’s stance.

“I’ve asked for a meeting with the prime minister,” she said.

“We’re still waiting to hear.”

Warning Johnson, O’Grady said: “Very often our sister unions in the EU find that their governments tell them much more about what’s happening in negotiations on trade with the UK than our government tells us. That gives us a unique perspective, a helicopter view of what’s actually going on and ways to take the PR spin out of the substance.

“We’re quite well plugged in. But there’s a lot of macho posturing, a lot of hot air and virility-testing going on at the moment.”

Johnson looks like he will remain at arms length from the negotiations and leave it to UK chief negotiator David Frost. Equally we can expect the pro Brexit newspapers in the UK to be cheerleading for a hard line from the government. 

In what Ms O’Grady said was “a very old-fashioned view of negotiation” the Johnson government has been busy sabre-rattling and getting themselves in a tangle over ‘no deal’.

In an interview with BBC Five Live’s Emma Barnett, Tory MP Theresa Villiers twisted and turned on the question of ‘no deal’ saying that we “already had a deal”, refusing over and over again even to use the phrase following an edict that the words ‘No Deal’ must not bet uttered by minsters and MPs.

Last week the government said it would ‘walk away’ in June if progress in the talks is slow (including on the question of employment rights). 

The government also published their EU negotiating mandate – in effect a vague wish list. They then told worried employers to get ready for a very bumpy ride as well as sticking to the assertion that we can get a non-existent ‘Australian-style trade deal’ – as a cover phrase for ‘no deal’.

The government added that they would take on 50,000 new staff in customs and immigration to process paper work and at the same time also to negotiate a trade deal with Donald Trump.

As if that wasn’t enough, new research shows Brexit will have cost the UK more than £200 billion in lost economic growth by the end of 2020.

This figure amounts to more than the total amount the UK has paid into the EU budget over the last 47 years (£215 billion).

The UK economy is already three per cent smaller than it could have been had EU membership been maintained.

So much for “taking back control of our money”.

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